EDF Health

The many ways the American Chemistry Council wants to turn back time on TSCA implementation – Part 1

Part 1 of a 2-part series: Minimizing or ignoring chemical risks

Maria Doa, Ph.D., Senior Director, Chemicals Policy 

In its recently issued ‘State of TSCA’ report, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) tries to turn back the clock on how EPA assesses and mitigates the risks of toxic chemicals. The chemical industry group looks to return to the policies of the Trump years – a time rife with scientific integrity issues and wholesale disregard of risks – particularly those risks to frontline communities, workers and other vulnerable groups: the very groups the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) calls out for special consideration.

This 2-part blog series looks at the six ways ACC hopes to turn back time on chemical safety and looks at the harms that would result if trade group’s self-serving ideas were to be adopted. Part 1 looks at the types of risks ACC wants EPA to exclude from its chemical risk evaluations, the workers and other groups whose health would be affected, as well as the trade group’s goal to have itself appointed as the arbitrator of EPA science. Part 2 looks at ACC’s efforts to dictate the process for assessing new chemicals and industry’s clear goal to avoid paying its fair share of the cost to evaluate the risks posed by some of the most dangerous chemicals already in the marketplace.  Read More »

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Environmental racism exists in our beauty products and must be addressed

Jennifer Ortega, Research Analyst, Environmental Health

Environmental racism is everywhere. At the neighborhood level, communities of color often experience worse air quality, fewer green spaces, or face more extreme temperatures. At the household level, families of color and low-income families experience a higher risk of lead in their drinking water and higher utility debt and energy insecurity. Inequities are even manifested in the items we use every day, with personal care products marketed to women of color often containing more toxic ingredients than those marketed to white women.

These toxic exposures are not driven by individual choices, but rather by where one lives, where one works, and by cultural beauty standards and norms. A new personal care product story map (also available in Spanish) consolidates federal labor and census data, as well as information from public health studies to show how the intersection of different factors manifests in racial disparities in the exposure to toxic ingredients in personal care products.  The map is part of an interactive web series, led by Tamarra James-Todd, Ph.D., and her team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Read More »

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Our experience with FDA’s food chemical program reinforces alarming findings from Politico investigation

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals and Maricel Maffini, consultant

A powerful investigative article by Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich revealed significant structural and leadership problems at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food program. The article articulated what has been implicitly understood by the food safety community. It led to demands from Congress for Commissioner Robert Califf to take aggressive action and even prompted calls for a new agency focused solely on food safety.

“Over the years, the food side of FDA has been so ignored and grown so dysfunctional that even former FDA commissioners readily acknowledged problems. There’s a long running joke among officials: The “F” in FDA is silent.”

– Helena Bottemiller Evich

from Politico article

In response, FDA leadership has pointed to Congress for failing to adequately fund the program and touted examples of where the agency has taken action on food safety.

Yesterday, 30 groups representing food industry leaders, and consumer groups, including EDF, joined in a call for Califf to unify the FDA’s food program under a deputy commissioner for foods with direct line authority over all food-related programs.

We have been advocating for FDA to improve the safety of chemicals added to our food for more than a decade, often working with FDA officials to push for regulatory reforms. From that narrow but deep perspective on food safety, everything we have seen reinforces the shortcomings highlighted in the Politico article. Read More »

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EPA to release assessment of toxic formaldehyde, rejects industry’s tired delay tactics

Maria Doa, Ph.D., Senior Director, Chemicals Policy 

The EPA will release a draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of formaldehyde, a key scientific review that identifies and characterizes the hazards from chronic exposure to this known carcinogen. The draft assessment, due to be published tomorrow, will be reviewed by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (National Academies).

We welcome the EPA’s decision to issue its formaldehyde assessment. Release of the assessment is a win for scientific integrity that follows years of pressure from industry groups and efforts during the previous administration to suppress the assessment. 

The EPA’s IRIS program is the gold standard for identifying and characterizing the hazards that result from exposure to chemicals. Its findings are essential to informing health-based standards that protect frontline communities, workers, children, consumers and more.   Read More »

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EPA can incorporate cumulative impacts in its chemical assessments right now

By Maria Doa, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy, and Lariah Edwards, Ph.D., EDF-George Washington University Postdoctoral Fellow

EPA recently asked its Science Advisory Board to provide advice on how it can incorporate cumulative impact assessments into its decisions making and on research to support cumulative impact assessments. At a public meeting of the SAB on March 2, we highlighted several areas where EPA can incorporate cumulative impact assessments right now.

Cumulative impacts refer to the total burden from chemical and non-chemical stressors and their effect on health, well-being, and quality of life. EPA asked the SAB for advice in two areas: First, what research should the agency conduct to strengthen the methods used in cumulative impact assessments. Second, and somewhat more important, how can EPA start now to incorporate cumulative impact assessments into its decision-making using data that is currently available.

People living in communities are often exposed to multiple chemical and non-chemical stressors. When individuals are exposed to multiple chemicals that cause a particular type of harm, they do not experience the risks for each chemical separately from the other. Nor are these chemical burdens experienced in isolation from other non-chemical stressors a person may face, like nutritional deficiencies or psychosocial stress. Cumulative impact assessments consider the combination and impact of both types of stressors, and therefore are more reflective of real-life conditions.

EPA assessments and decision making should take into consideration this reality and move away as much as possible from the status quo of evaluating one source, one chemical, and one environmental medium. Read More »

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Understanding PFAS: Why a broad, transparent PFAS Testing Strategy is needed

Maria Doa, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy; Lauren Ellis, Research Analyst; and Lariah Edwards, Post-Doctoral Fellow

EDF this week sent EPA a letter identifying opportunities for the agency to improve the effectiveness and transparency of its strategy for testing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

EPA unveiled its National PFAS Testing Strategy (Testing Strategy) last fall, laying out its plan to better understand the class of chemicals and inform its future regulatory efforts. PFAS are a large group of synthetic chemicals used to impart water, oil, grease, and stain resistance to various materials, and they are used in hundreds of everyday products, from water-proof clothing to grease-proof food packaging. By its own count, EPA says there are more than 12,000 individual PFAS.

In their letter to EPA, EDF analyst Lauren Ellis and post-doctoral fellow Lariah Edwards commended the agency for developing a strategy to address some of the significant data gaps that exist around PFAS and committing to use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) ‒ the country’s main chemical safety law ‒ to require manufacturers to provide toxicity data on the chemicals.

As the letter points out, however, in its current state, the Testing Strategy lacks sufficient detail and is too narrow to fulfill the agency’s intended purpose to understand and regulate PFAS in a way that is protective of both human health and the environment. Read More »

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